There's a lot of conflicting advice about whether it's smarter to rent or buy. Some say renting is like throwing money down the drain when you could be building equity in your own home. Others argue there are better ways to invest your cash, and you're giving up valuable flexibility. Only you can decide what's best for you and your family. 

"We typically make big decisions like whether to rent or buy with emotion and defend them with logic, which is why it's so easy to make a case for either," explains Dana Bull, a Realtor at Sotheby's Harborside in Boston.

Here are five signs to consider if you think you're ready to be a homeowner.

1. You want to own a home.

Tired of noisy neighbors and too many rules. Is someone always using the laundry machine when you need it? Perhaps an upgrade is in your future, but also consider the extra time you'll manually need to invest towards taking care of your own home.

Enjoy gardening and fixing things up around your place? That'll make homeownership easier. From coordinating maintenance and repairs to dedicating weekend time to unexpected projects, owning a home requires much responsibility and a big time investment on top of the financial one. 

"If you'd rather be able to call a landlord to handle issues when they arise, you may be better off renting for now," says Certified Financial Planner John Piershale of Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

2. You've saved up for a down payment.

After deciding to take the leap, the next step is to save up for a 20-percent down payment. "If you can save more than 20 percent, even better," Piershale says. "Taking out a smaller mortgage means you'll pay less in interest over time." 

Do consider that 20% isn't mandatory. Some lenders offer very low down payment options. But a higher down payment will help you avoid private mortgage insurance, which is typically equal to 1 percent of the purchase price (and paid annually). 

If homeownership is a near-term goal, consider taking advantage of your flexibility as a renter by finding a roommate or downsizing to a cheaper place to accelerate your savings. 

3. Your budget can handle all the extras.

A mortgage is just one home cost to budget for — there's also taxes, insurance, maintenance, and homeowners association fees. Generally, mortgage lenders want to see all these costs add up to no more than 28 percent of your income, Piershale says. (You can get estimates on sites like realestate.com and guaranteedrate.com.) It shows you can comfortably afford home costs and other living expenses, as well as repairs that may come up. 

Don't have that much wiggle room? Consider looking at homes with lower price tags or work on increasing your income and savings while you're still renting. 

4. You've found a neighborhood you'd like to live in for years.

If you'll only live in a particular area for a year or two, renting is likely your best bet. "Having the option to get up and leave with minimal strings attached is very appealing," Bull says. Renting can also be a smart way to experiment and learn what you like and dislike about different neighborhoods.

When you're ready to commit and plan to stay for at least three years, buying is back on the table. Just make sure you thoroughly research the area first. Consider future plans like:  If you have kids, are you happy with the school district? Is the neighborhood safe? Are the home prices increasing generally? 

You can find detailed information on crime rates and school rating on sites like City-Data.

5. You can't rent a similar place for significantly less.

If you can rent in your desired area for much cheaper than a mortgage and other housing costs would set you back, you may benefit from renting a while longer and saving or investing the difference in monthly expenses. Not only can this build your net worth in the meantime, but it allows you to test-run your budget. 

Team McMurray recommends that you do talk with a mortgage professional about your options. You may be more ready than you think to begin looking for the home of your dreams.

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Read the original article on Grow. Copyright 2017 

By Nancy Mann Jackson